Esther Suen Chi Lan
Ms. Esther Suen transformed her family’s business into one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-end electrical appliances, while furthering its legacy of international philanthropy.
Raised among the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, Ms. Suen moved to the Canadian prairies at age 17, eager to study business at the University of Manitoba.
As a student here, she quickly realized that learning about a culture different from her own was as much of an education as her lessons in the classroom. This new global awareness would shape her way of thinking, in life and in business, from that point forward.
She returned to Hong Kong in 1985 with her Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree, and soon joined Simatelex Manufactory Company Ltd., founded by her father, Suen Chi Sun.
Since taking over as vice-chair and managing director two decades ago, Ms. Suen has guided Simatelex through a period of tremendous growth. She has greatly expanded the company’s product lines, from kitchen appliances to floor care and robotic products for the global market.
What began as a small factory in 1969 is now a top manufacturer with five plants in southern China and 20,000 employees. The company produces 20 million products a year for some of the world’s biggest brands such as Keurig, Cuisinart, Philips, Nespresso and Breville.
While expanding, modernizing and reshaping operations, she remains true to her father’s core principles of quality, integrity and attention to detail.
Ms. Suen has never forgotten the value of her experience at the University of Manitoba. To give others this opportunity, she supports an exchange program for international students enrolled at her alma mater.
Ms. Suen also champions the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Hong Kong through contributions toward endowed professorship, dormitory development and student scholarships. She has made donations to support schools for underprivileged students as well as those with accessibility requirements.
In recognition of her gifts to academia and the wider community, the University of Hong Kong named Ms. Suen an honorary fellow in 2008.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Ms. Esther Suen, a business leader and philanthropist who inspires the next generation.
Ovide William Mercredi
Mr. Ovide Mercredi, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is a highly respected lawyer, negotiator, lecturer, activist, artist, author and poet. During his decades of advocacy for Indigenous rights, Mr. Mercredi has championed education and charted a path toward reconciliation.
Born into a traditional Cree family in 1946 in Grand Rapids, Man., he learned early on about social injustice. When he was a teenager, his family lost their home and traditional way of life to massive hydro development in their community.
This experience ignited young Ovide’s political awareness and moved him to pursue higher education at the University of Manitoba in 1970. Without Grade 12, he was able to attend the U of M through the ACCESS program. He was a trailblazing student, helping to establish the first Indigenous Students’ Association in Canada, and as its president successfully lobbied for a department of Native Studies. He graduated with a law degree.
Inspired by the teachings of notable world leaders who advocated non-violent protest, particularly Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mr. Mercredi formed a strong belief that constitutional law must be the basis for achieving real change for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Mr. Mercredi was elected Manitoba regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in 1989, and soon became a leading advocate for the right to self-government. Not only was he a key strategist in helping defeat the Meech Lake Accord, he played an integral role in resolving the Oka Crisis in Quebec.
From 1991-97, he served two terms as national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, representing 1.5 million people from more than 600 bands. Involved in formulating the Charlottetown Accord, Mr. Mercredi addressed the United Nations in both Geneva and New York. And from 2005-11, he brought many improvements to his home community as chief of the Misipawistik Cree Nation.
Today, Mr. Mercredi is helping to transform health services for those living in the 49 communities of Nishnawbe Aski Nation in northern Ontario.
Mr. Mercredi has been actively involved with the University of Manitoba as an advisor on many issues, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to Mr. Ovide Mercredi, a tireless advocate and mentor who guides us on the path to reconciliation.
Mr. Gregory Hanson is a highly respected business leader with a well-deserved reputation for strengthening Manitoba communities.
From a young age, his determined, independent spirit was encouraged. His father passed away when he was just 14 months old, but he was never made to feel disadvantaged. His mother, a woman as compassionate as she was strong, raised her son to be equally so.
He worked part-time to attend private school, eventually enrolled at the University of Manitoba and after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in 1976, went on to earn his chartered accountant designation.
Mr. Hanson joined Wawanesa Mutual Insurance in 1979. In 1992, at age 41, he became the youngest president and CEO in the company’s 100-year-old history. Under his leadership, Wawanesa transformed into Canada’s largest mutual insurance company and one of the country’s top-ranked property and casualty insurers.
The highlight of his volunteer service was with the 1999 Pan American Games, which he counts as the toughest but most rewarding of tasks. As chair of finance, he brought the event to a successful close with a surplus of $8 million—a legacy that continues to benefit sports programs in Manitoba.
Today he is focused on the success of the next generation of Indigenous Peoples, most notably through the Winnipeg Boldness Project, which empowers families in the Point Douglas neighbourhood. He also champions the Bear Clan Patrol, encouraging more formalized governance practices and also volunteering on the patrol itself.
His many honours include the Order of Canada, the U of M’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce Lieutenant Governor’s Award for outstanding service to the community.